Role of education in the prevention of cyberbullying raised with Senate committee
Ottawa, Ontario, 5 June 2012 (CBNS) — Educational programs designed to prevent cyberbullying should aim to foster both the intellectual and spiritual growth of adolescents, empowering them to contribute to the improvement of their relationships and communities.
This is according to a submission by the Baha’i Community of Canada to the Senate’s Standing Committee on Human Rights. The Senate committee has been engaging in an ongoing study of cyberbullying and its impact on Canadian children and youth.
The committee began its study in December 2011 and plans to report to the Senate in October 2012. It invited input from teachers, counsellors, youth and organizations in order to “find ways to prevent cyberbullying, and to protect and to assist young Canadians who are victims”. According to the committee’s website, “Senators are conducting a study on this important topic to better understand what is happening in the online lives of young Canadians today.”
The term “cyberbullying” has come to be understood as the use of text messages, email, social networks and other technologies to abuse other individuals. This behaviour has been attracting much attention, as the Internet is becoming an important social space for a growing number of Canadians. Malicious behaviour in this space has been connected with depression, low self-esteem and suicide.
Baha’is across Canada are involved with the implementation of grassroots programs that engage the interests and mould the capacities of young people for service to their communities. Drawing on its experience with young people, the Baha’i community chose to focus its reflections on the role of education in the prevention of cyberbullying.
The submission states that in unsupervised and unmoderated online social spaces, young people are left to make their own choices with regard to interacting with their peers. “To be able to make moral choices, one needs more than a set of rules; an entire moral structure needs to be erected in the mind of a young person – a strong social purpose that connects spiritual concepts, patterns of behaviour, and an awareness of consequences – that is sustained by the forces of volition and courage.”
It goes on to describe the need for clarity around spiritual concepts, using justice as an example. In the minds of young people, justice is often considered to be synonymous with retaliation, which makes vengeance a logical response to injustice.
“This conception of justice is not moderated by other qualities such as compassion and mercy; therefore, bullying becomes a much larger phenomenon than just a few ‘bad apples’ in a classroom. In fact, in many cases, young people are both bullies and victims. This cycle continues when victims think that the proper response to victimization is aggression similar to that which they themselves experienced.”
The Baha’i community’s submission suggests that a “program of education that engages young people in an exploration of reality, and helps them to analyse their social environment and to recognize the influence various forces exert on their thoughts and actions will help them to develop more healthy and constructive relationships – online and offline.”
Senator Mobina Jaffer, who chairs the committee, has stated that in addition to learning skills such as reading, writing and arithmetic, emphasis also needs to be placed on relationship skills. “Children need to be taught from a very young age values such as empathy, respect, tolerance, acceptance and diversity. By instilling these values in children from a young age they will be less likely to victimize their peers and engage in malicious and hurtful behaviour.”
To read the full statement by the Baha’i Community of Canada, please see the attached document.
Information on how individuals can participate in the discussion is provided here.
|The Bahá’í Community of Canada’s submission to the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights study on cyberbullying.pdf||114.8 KB|